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The military-led Government plans to remain in place until early 2024, adding to these concerns.

This briefing discusses political developments in Mali in 2022.

Who is currently in charge?

In June 2021, Colonel Assimi Goïta was sworn in as interim President. Goïta led the coup that removed elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Kéïta in August 2020. He became vice-president in a civilian-led administration, before leading a second coup in May 2021 and taking power himself.

When were elections supposed to be held?

February 2022.

In September 2020, a month after the first coup, after talks with opposition and civil society groups and pressure from West African leaders, the interim Government agreed an 18-month transition timeline to return to civilian rule.

In April 2021 the transitional administration confirmed legislative and presidential elections would take place on 27 February 2022.

Upon taking power in the second coup, Goïta indicated he was committed to the agreed election timetable. At his swearing in ceremony he said he was committed to implementing “the organisation of credible, fair and transparent elections that are held as scheduled.”

However, he has since extended his leadership of the transition period.

Presidential elections now slated for February 2024

Despite continued pressure from ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, to stick to the declared election schedule, in late 2021 the transitional authorities, now led by Goïta, indicated it would not meet the February 2022 deadline.

Goïta initially proposed 2026 for elections, before revising it to 2025 after pressure from ECOWAS. After holding an extraordinary summit on Mali in January 2022, ECOWAS said the proposed calendar was “totally unacceptable”:

This calendar simply means that an illegitimate military transition Government will take the Malian people hostage during the next five years.

ECOWAS upheld sanctions imposed after the coup. It also added new economic and financial sanctions, closed land and air borders with Mali and suspended most commercial and financial transactions.

The Malian authorities then announced in June, ahead of another ECOWAS summit, a revised election timetable for the transition to end in 2024:

  • March 2023 – a referendum on a revised constitution
  • October/November 2023 – legislative elections
  • February 2024 – presidential election

ECOWAS responded by lifting economic and financial sanctions and opening the borders, although some individual sanctions remain in place. Mali remains suspended from ECOWAS decision-making bodies.

It has also demanded that members of the transition authority are barred from standing in the elections.

What prompted the coups?

The current crisis in Mali has its roots in the events of 2012, when northern separatists and Islamist armed groups forced government forces out of northern Mali, and the military overthrew the Government. Fresh elections in 2013 and 2018, and a peace accord in 2015 between the Government and two northern separatist movements, brought hope of stability.

However, a continued Jihadist insurgency and attacks by a myriad of armed groups, little progress in implementing the 2015 accords and anti-government demonstrations by a coalition of opposition forces led to the removal of President Kéïta in summer 2020. Library paper UK deployments and recent political challenges in Mali (24 September 2020) discusses the context of the coup in more detail.

Over the last few years hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands more internally displaced by a mixture of insecurity, poverty and the effects of climate change.

Little progress on implementing the 2015 peace accords

There has been little progress in implementing the 2015 agreement on peace and reconciliation in Mali (also known as the Algiers accords). The Carter Center, the independent observer of the implementation of the agreement, has said “implementation is at an unprecedented impasse” (PDF). Reporting in June 2022, the Carter Center found the main bodies in the implementation process have “virtually stopped functioning” and the signatory parties have made no meaningful progress for nearly a year.

Ferdaous Bouhlel, a specialist in the Sahel, warns the “almost unprecedented deadlock” risks escalating tension between the Government and the northern ex-rebels. One signatory to the accords, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (a coalition of Tuareg and Arab nationalist groups) expressed concern about the deteriorating socio-political situation in Mali. The group decried what it saw as the abandoning implementing the agreement by the transitional authorities.

A shift in foreign relations?

Goïta has also signalled a shift in how he uses international forces to address Mali’s security concerns.

A deteriorating relationship with France, Mali’s former colonial power, resulted in it withdrawing its military forces and ending its near decade long counter-terrorism operation in summer 2022. In a statement, France and its international partners said: “the political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali.”

There are also clear tensions with the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, as the Malian authorities have at times restricted its freedom of movement and paused the rotation of forces.

The arrival of the controversial Russia-based private military company the Wagner Group (which is sanctioned by the UK), reportedly at Mali’s request, has also raised concerns. The UK Government has described reports of human rights abuses in Mali by the Wagner Group as “horrifying”. In April the EU suspended part its training mission in Mali, partly because of the lack of guarantees from authorities on the “non-interference by the Wagner Group”.

The UK Government – which has several hundred soldiers attached to the UN peacekeeping mission – says it is closely monitoring the situation in Mali. Gillian Keegan, the Minister for Africa, has said that long term stability in Mali will only come from addressing the root causes of conflict, including governance.

Risk of political unrest in the region

The number of coups or attempted coups in West Africa, most recently in Burkina Faso, have raised concerns about longer-term political stability in the region.

Recent political events in neighbouring Burkina Faso are discussed in Library paper Burkina Faso: Second coup of 2022.

The UK’s military involvement in Mali is discussed in Library paper UK military in the Sahel: Developments in 2022.

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